Sissy: A Coming-Of-Gender Story

Author: Jacob Tobia

Published: March 5, 2019

Publisher: Katherine G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Where I picked up my book: Library

Key Words: Memoir, Trans Lit, LGBTQ+, gender studies

My Rating: 3.75

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Synopsis (via Goodreads):

A heart-wrenching, eye-opening, and giggle-inducing memoir about what it’s like to grow up not sure if you’re (a) a boy, (b) a girl, (c) something in between, or (d) all of the above.

“When the political reality facing this country seems dark, we need shinier, sparklier thinkers in the public eye. With a signature style matched only by their wit, Jacob fits that bill perfectly.” –Alan Cumming

From the moment a doctor in Raleigh, North Carolina, put “male” on Jacob Tobia’s birth certificate, everything went wrong. Alongside “male” came many other, far less neutral words: words that carried expectations about who Jacob was and who Jacob should be, words like “masculine” and “aggressive” and “cargo shorts” and “SPORTS!”

Naturally sensitive, playful, creative, and glitter-obsessed, as a child Jacob was given the label “sissy.” In the two decades that followed, “sissy” joined forces with “gay,” “trans,” “nonbinary,” and “too-queer-to-function” to become a source of pride and, today, a rallying cry for a much-needed gender revolution. Through revisiting their childhood and calling out the stereotypes that each of us have faced, Jacob invites us to rethink what we know about gender and offers a bold blueprint for a healed world–one free from gender-based trauma and bursting with trans-inclusive feminism.

From Jacob’s Methodist childhood and the hallowed halls of Duke University to the portrait-laden parlors of the White House, Sissy takes you on a gender odyssey you won’t soon forget. Writing with the fierce honesty, wildly irreverent humor, and wrenching vulnerability that have made them a media sensation, Jacob shatters the long-held notion that people are easily sortable into “men” and “women.” Sissy guarantees that you’ll never think about gender–both other people’s people’s and your own–the same way again.

My Thoughts:

It took me a minute to get my thoughts and feelings down about this book. Firstly, I will say this is an important book and one you should grab immediately to better understand yourself, gender, society and the world in general. Books like this one are pertinent in moving the narrative forward and I’m 100% in for all of them!

With that said, I have both things I loved about this book and didn’t so much love about the book. I’ll start with what I didn’t love so I can end on a high note.

DIDN’T LOVE

  1. I could tell Jacob is a lot younger than me and as I was reading this book, I realized just how far away I am from their age. It’s not a bad thing and I don’t think it would bother readers that are more similar in age to Jacob or quite a bit older than Jacob, but as a person turning 40, I found myself slightly irked at times.
  2. There was a lot of religious talk throughout this memoir. I know this is a memoir and Jacob’s religion and relationship with the church is part of their journey, but religion has been the curse of my life with my own coming out journey (and as a kid being forced to participate in something that felt innately wrong to me), so I felt slightly offended by all of the religious talk. In general, I steer clear of religion in books (and life if I’m being perfectly honest) as a rule of thumb, so this was tough for me to see past.
  3. So much Duke talk. But again, this was the closest life experience that Jacob has had, so it’s important to them. It just made me feel a little annoyed reading about all of this Duke talk and how Jacob seemed a bit dismissive of the fact that they were given a full scholarship to a prestigious college and yet still felt they had the right to down talk it. It felt slightly classist and seemed to show a bit of privilege. Again, it might have been that I’m sooooo far removed from my college experience, although I’ll be paying back my student loans until the day I die, so that might have played a role in me being aggravated. Jacob did have a horrific experience at a Duke diversity training that would have turned me off from my college, full ride or not, so I wonder if that played a role and definitely something for me to consider.
  4. I’m starting to learn that I just don’t love all memoirs. There is something innately narcissistic about a memoir (that’s basically the point through, right?) that puts me off. Again, this isn’t Jacob’s fault, but as a reader, I find myself somewhat dismissive by all the me talk. I’ve read memoirs that don’t feel this way, but I felt it a bit while reading this memoir.

THINGS I LOVED

  1. All the jazz hands for writing a book that educates readers in a way that doesn’t feel preachy, that you’re talking down to us, or is too intellectual-based. It was an thoroughly enjoyable read and I appreciated that so much.
  2. We need allll the trans books/LGBTQ+ books/own voices books that we can get and I will read and love all of them that rest in my hands.
  3. I had a similar experience with my dad that Jacob had, but it went to a whole different level where not a single person in my family speaks to me. I felt myself tearing up as they spoke about their father and tearing up even more as they showed the journey their mother took to get to the place that she is at now. It was beautiful.
  4. The White House visit was everything to me and Eleanor Roosevelt is queen 🙂
  5. This book had me laughing out loud at times and I really appreciate it. Especially when there were certain parts of the book that were tough for me.
  6. We got to see a glimpse into what it’s like to grow into a genderqueer identity and I’m not sure I’ve ever read something this honest or real before.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book. Not just because it’s queer, but because books like this need to be read in order to understand society as a whole. With education comes learning and acceptance and I applaud books like Jacob’s.

Have you read this one yet? Let me know what you thought here in the comments or on Instagram (@bookishfolk).

bookishfolk…read instead.

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